Nats miss chances vs. Giants, drop 3rd straight
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals had a rally nearly gifted to them in the sixth inning Monday night after two normally sure-handed veterans made a pair of errors at AT&T Park. First, Evan Longoria dropped a foul popup to extend an at-bat for Bryce Harper, who eventually walked. Then, Andrew McCutchen missed a fly ball in right field to put Ryan Zimmerman at second and advance Harper to third.
Washington's struggling offense has rarely taken advantage of such mistakes recently. With one out, the rally fizzled away as Matt Adams struck out and Matt Wieters flied out weakly to center field. Such is the case for the Nationals' offense these days, missing three of their best hitters with Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy on the disabled list. Without them, too often the Nats have been unable to make opponents pay for extra baserunners, with a 4-2 loss to the Giants serving as the latest example.
"That was the big turning point of the game," Nats manager Dave Martinez said. "If that happens, we do something different in the bullpen. Unfortunately, we didn't knock those runs in."
If the Nats had taken a lead in that inning, perhaps Martinez could have turned to their three late-inning relievers to preserve the lead. Instead, Washington dropped its third consecutive game on this nine-game road trip and has now lost four of its past five games.
"Just keep your head up and keep going, that's the only way you can do it," left-hander Giovany Gonzalez said. "Can't dwell in the past, can't dwell on little things. You just got to keep going."
Gonzalez was particularly frustrated on Monday night. The Giants ran up his pitch count, but he worked his way out of trouble through five innings and he returned to the mound to open the sixth. But Gonzalez issued a leadoff walk to Brandon Belt that put him at 94 pitches and his night was complete.
After the game, Gonzalez was asked whether he thought he should have been allowed to continue, and he responded, "100 percent."
What came next would be a blow for the Nationals. Right-hander Shawn Kelley entered the game and surrendered a two-run home run to Mac Williamson on his first pitch. But Kelley said he felt something was off during each of the four pitches he threw that inning, the last of which spiked into the dirt in front of home plate, and he was then removed from the game with an irritated ulnar nerve in his elbow. He will be evaluated further Tuesday, when he will almost certainly be placed on the disabled list.
"It's probably been the best I've felt in years," Kelley said. "So that's kind of -- this one is kind of puzzling. I can sometimes point to something or think back to something, but it was a kind of a head-scratcher this time."
And the Nationals' offense has been scratching its head through much of this stretch. Opposing teams have continued to walk Harper without much fear of putting him on. After a pair of walks Monday night, he now has walked 12 times in the past eight games. Giants right-hander Chris Stratton limited the Nats to just two runs in 6 2/3 innings. He walked three and gave up four hits, but even when he did get into trouble, he was able to work his way out of it.
"I think we know what this group's capable of," Adams said. "It's not like we're going up there and every guy's striking out. We're putting the barrel on the ball and right now it's going right at guys. We're getting some opportunities and we're not cashing in, but I mean that's baseball."
Trea Turner and Michael A. Taylor both stole a base on Monday night, keeping pace with one another in their sprint to the top of the stolen-base leaderboard. Both players are now a perfect 9-for-9 on stolen-base attempts this season and their nine stolen bases are tied for the Major League lead. Tim Anderson of the White Sox also has nine.
Turner and Taylor have started to heat up a bit and the Nationals are hopeful that production can continue Tuesday night when right-hander Tanner Roark takes the mound against the Giants. Roark is 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA in his career vs. San Francisco, with first pitch scheduled for 10:15 p.m. ET.